Hope, Strength, and Healing for families coping with a child cancer diagnosis

2018 John McLean Hero Award Winner & The Decision that Saved His Life

Alexander Parra, 17

Senior, Woodcreek High School
Diagnosis: Osteosarcoma, August 2016
Currently in remission

“Always stay positive and never think negatively. Look for guidance from family and friends and never lose hope.” – Alex

Hearing the three words, “You have cancer,” changed his life forever

Cancer, who would’ve thought, I was in shock, my parents in tears. The next thing you know the Doctor is rambling on and on about what it was and all this medical mumbo-jumbo. All I could remember was him saying this, “You have Osteosarcoma a rare type of bone cancer-with only 20,000 cases a year in the United States.” He continues on, “You have a 40 percent chance of living and a 60 percent chance of it being fatal.” I stopped him right there, “So you’re telling me that I can die?” He said in a calming tone, “Well every 5 years or so there’s a fifty-fifty chance of it coming back, and amputation is an option.” I burst into tears. “There is a chance that it can spread anywhere in your body but if it spreads to your lungs, we’re not sure what we could do from there,” he said. He then begins to ramble on, and now all I could think about if I was going to die, who would go to my funeral or how would I live with myself if I lost my leg.

The decision that saved his life.

I woke up 5 hours later, I tried moving my leg that was cut off and I couldn’t. I had forgotten what it felt like to walk, to run, tostretch my legs. When I tried moving it, it felt like one thousand pounds. My parents were there next to me. I will never forget their smiles when I awoke, but when the doctor walked in the smiles began to fade. “Your tumor has spread up your leg a little and we did have to cut higher than expected. If your son chose the knee replacement that tumor would’ve kept spreading and we would’ve never known. We were filled with joy hugs went around everybody, tears turned into tears of joy and positivity lead on after that.
It may have been one of the scariest moments of my life but it is one of the moments where I have learned the most. It’s where I learned that even in the darkest moments you always have to look for the light, that you can’t give up just because something negative happens, and that you can’t stop fighting.



Excerpts from John McLean Hero Award Essay, as written by Alexander Parra.

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